THE ASHES gets underway this week with England's cricketers confident of their first victory Down Under since 1986-87.

Andrew Strauss' troops are playing better than ever but I believe they will still come up short against Australia.

The bookies agree and how often do they get it wrong?

England arrived in Australia four years ago in the same frame of mind after their heroics of 2005. But you will recall they headed home embarrassed after a 5-0 thumping at the hands of the Baggy Greens. While I don't think an out-of-sorts Australia will enjoy another whitewash over the Poms I won't rule it out.

Ricky Ponting and co are struggling for form but if one thing fires up an Aussie like a barbie on Bondi Beach it's a clash with England on home soil.

Make no mistake Australia's players don't need team talks, motivational speeches or mind gurus to get the adrenalin pumping – they want the urn back and want to blow England away.

The first Ashes Test takes place at the Gabba in Brisbane, significantly where Australia haven't lost a Test since 1988. Safe to say England are up against from the first ball because in 20 Tests at Brisbane since 1990, the Aussies have won 16 and drawn four.

It's hard to see them giving up that run against their oldest foes and therefore England will be one down with four to play when the toss is made on December 3 in Adelaide.

Australia are a tasty 13-10 with Blue Square and 888sport to win at the Gabba. England are 14-5 at bet365 with the draw 2-1 at bet365, boylesports, Betfred and Coral.

Ponting is favourite to get most runs on the board for the hosts in Brisbane (7-2, totesport and Paddy Power among others), with the same price on offer for England skipper Strauss.

The chances of five Tests uninterrupted by the weather are slim but as I said earlier I wouldn't dismiss Australia's chances of another whitewash. With a victory at the Gabba in the bag the odds will shorten and from then on anything is possible.

Australia 5-0 is 33-1 with Victor Chandler although I'm a little surprised you'll only get 50-1 on 5-0 England.

If I'm forced out of my crease I'll go 3-0 Australia (20-1, totesport, sportingbet) but I will still have a punt on the whitewash.

I also believe the steadying influence of Michael Hussey in the middle order will be crucial to Australia's hopes and he's is worth a look to be their top batsman in the series at 6-1 (Blue Square, Paddy Power, 888sport). Strauss is favourite to be the top England batsman (7-2 totesport, BetFred and Blue Square among others).

Aussie paceman Mitchell Johnson is fancied to be the top wicket-taker for his country (11-4) with Graeme Swann the England tip (5-4).

Ashes betting:

  • Series winner – Australia (evens, Sportingbet, Stan James), England (15-8, Boylesports).
  • First Test begins: Wednesday midnight (GMT)

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